NZXT H440 Mid Tower Case

Despite lacking an optical drive bay, the NZXT H440 is a popular tower case with stylish looks, acoustic damping foam, pleasant lighting effects, and a cordoned off PSU position.

Note: Addendum on final page (8), 21 Mar 2015.

March 16, 2015 by Lawrence Lee

Product
NZXT H440
ATX Tower Case
Manufacturer
Street Price
US$110

NZXT is one of the hottest PC enthusiast brands, thanks in no small part to
a slew of stylish products with user-friendly selling points. At SPCR, the company
has two distinct accomplishments. This past year, their Kraken
X61
all-in-one liquid cooler became the first such unit to receive our
recommendation. And more notably, our editor Mike Chin, uses an NZXT
H2
case (only slightly modified) to house his main desktop system. Today,
I’m looking at one of their most popular tower cases. The H440 offers an intriguing
blend of aesthetics, features, and conveniences.


The NZXT H440 (red version).

The H440 is a steel case. The front and top portions are composed of thick
plastic that imbues the case with a solid look and feel. The most noticeable
aspect of this tower is its complete lack of 5.25-inch bays. Over time, tower
cases have shed 5.25-inch drive placements as users have increasingly moved
away from optical media, but the H440 is one of the rare few that have done
away with them completely. Without this, there’s no reason for a door, so it
adopts a completely solid front face.

Peering through the side window, you’ll find that the power supply is housed
in its own compartment that covers the entire bottom section, hiding the output
cabling. Inside, the H440 is stocked with four fans connected to a hub that
can power up to 10 in total, but the overall design actually doesn’t place an
emphasis on airflow. Upon closer inspection the amount of ventilation offered
is limited, more befitting a classic quiet model rather than an enthusiast chassis.


Accessories.

The H440 doesn’t offer much in the way of extras. Included is an assembly guide, a case badge, screws, and generous allotment of zip-ties.

Specifications: NZXT H440
(from the
product web page
)
Model Number CA-H440W-W1 (Glossy White)
CA-H440W-M1 (Matte Black and Gloss Red)
CA-H440W-M2 (Matte Black and Gloss Orange)
CA-H440W-M3 (Matte Black and Gloss Green)
CA-H440W-M4 (Matte Black and Gloss Blue)
Drive Bays External 5.25″: 0
Internal 3.5″/2.5″: 6+2
Cooling System Front: 2x 140/3x120mm (3 x 120mm FN V2 Fans Included)
Top: 2x 140/3x120mm
Rear: 1x 140/120mm (1 x 140mm FN V2 Fan Included)
Filters Front (Included)
Bottom Rear(Included)
Radiator Support Front 2 x 140 or 3 x 120mm
Top 2 x 140 or 3 x 120mm
Rear 1 x 140/120mm
Clearance GPU Clearance With HDD Cage: 294mm
GPU Clearance Without HDD Cage: 406.2mm
CPU Cooler: 180mm
Cable Management: Lowest Point – 17.7mm; Highest Point 32.5mm
Dimensions 220mm x 510mm x 475.3mm
Material SECC Steel, ABS Plastic
Motherboard Support Mini-ITX, MicroATX, ATX
Expansion Slots 8
External Electronics 1 x Audio/Mic
I/O Panel LED On/Off
Product Weight 9.75 kg
UPC 815671011848 (White)
815671011855 (Black)
815671011985 (Black/Blue)
815671011978 (Black/Green)
815671011961 (Black/Orange)
EAN 5060301691098 (White)
5060301691104 (Black)
USB 3.0 Ports 2
USB 2.0 Ports 2
Warranty 2 Years

The H440 is armed
with three 120 mm fans at the front, one 140 mm fan at the back, and an additional
two/three 140/120 mm fans can be mounted at the top. Up to six 3.5-inch drives
are supported as well as a pair of 2.5-inch drives and clearances for the CPU heatsink
and video card are ample. The case is available in black with four different trim colors (red, orange,
green, and blue) and there is a white model with black accents. They have also teamed up with the gaming system/accessory maker Razer for a slightly different Razer-branded H440.

EXTERIOR & SIDE PANELS

The H440 is a steel and plastic case weighing 9.75 kg or 21.45 lb and measuring
22.0 x 51.0 x 47.5 cm or 8.7 x 20.1 x 18.7 inches (W x H x D), giving it a modest
total volume for a modern ATX case, 53 Liters.


Modern towers usually have exposed fan placements on the top panel
but they’re hidden on the H440. The edges of top panel are ventilated
but only on the window side and at the back.


The front face is similarly afflicted, ventilated only on the right side. The holes themselves are sizable but only putting them on one side is a serious detriment to thermal performance.


Audio and USB 3.0/2.0 ports are neatly arrayed at the top on the right side while the reset and power buttons are located on the opposite end. When turned on, the perimeter of the power button has a faint white glow which increases in intensity with drive activity.


With the power supply almost completely encapsulated inside, it
must be installed through the back via a steel frame. The rear fan can
be adjusted up or down about an inch in position.


On the bottom of the chassis, the power supply fan vent is covered by a removable dust filter. Closer to the front are holes for mounting a 3.5-inch drive on the case floor.


Spongy noise damping foam line both the front and top panels as well as the reasonably sturdy 0.9 mm thick side panels.


The side panels mount using rudimentary captive thumbscrews.

INTERIOR

The H440’s internal construction is fairly solid. The metal used is of reasonable
thickness and the motherboard tray, hard drive area, and power supply compartment
are riveted to one another, providing good overall structural integrity. The
most noticeable aspect of the interior is the extensive amount of cabling used
to connect all the fans to the fan hub and power the lighting effects.


The top and front panels come off with a firm tug. Underneath, there
are three 120 mm intake fans and a removable mesh dust filter.


The top panel covers two/three 140/120 mm fan positions on the case ceiling. Both panels are lined with the same foam as the side panels.


The internal layout is relatively traditional except for the bottom as the power supply is segregated from the rest of the case. This cover helps thermally isolate the position and also hides all the power cables from view.


A pair of 2.5-inch drives can be installed above the power supply. The drive trays use a bayonet style mounting system but they’re surprisingly loose. It’s not a tight fight and the single thumbscrew used to complete installation does little to immobilize the position.


The edge of the motherboard tray is angled outward, giving a bit more room behind it for cables going through the larger routing holes on the side.


A myriad of wires snake their way around the perimeter of the motherboard tray but there are many points for tying down cables. 3.5-inch drives can be installed on this side using drive sleds with a pair of captive thumbscrews.


The fan hub at the back can run up to 10 fans but offers no form
of fan control. It’s powered by a 3-pin header running off an adapter
that uses the 12V line of a 4-pin molex power supply connector.


The 5V line of that same connector powers a circuit near the top of the case that provides lighting at the rear of the case and on the power supply cover.

ASSEMBLY

Assembling a system inside the H440 is not difficult aside from managing all
the cables at the back. My only piece of advice pertains to modular power supplies:
Hook up all the cables beforehand as the power supply compartment covers most
of the bottom of the case, making it difficult to see inside.

NOTE: Following the sudden death of one of the video cards (an outdated
HD 4870) we previously used to test ATX cases, our test system has been updated
with more modern components including a AMD A10-6800K APU (100W), a microATX
motherboard (that can pull double duty for both ATX and microATX cases), and
an Asus Strix GTX 980 (165W).


The H440’s drive mounting hardware. The 3.5-inch trays have rubber grommets at the bottom, while 2.5-inch drives are hard-mounted.


The front of the 3.5-inch trays simply sit on two metal tabs while a center tab sticks out to press against it while the back of the tray is mounted with thumbscrews. It looks like a shoddy system but it’s actually surprisingly secure and the way it’s designed limits the amount of physical contact.


As the fan hub has no control ability, the fans are connected to motherboard fan headers instead. Even without these extra wires, the back of the motherboard tray is quite busy in terms of cabling. It’s still a relatively tight fit as there is only 17 mm of clearance behind most of the motherboard tray and the foam on the side panel eats up 3 mm.


The windowed side of the system is very clean with the power supply and hard drive area doing a great job of stealthing most of the cables.


The H440 has one of the least annoying power lighting effects with the NZXT logo illuminated in white.


Above the I/O shield is a small button that turns on/off a pair of downward-facing white LEDs. Houses have porch lights, while the H440 has port lights.

TESTING

System Configuration:


Test system device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

  • Prime95
    processor stress software.
  • FurMark
    stability test to stress the integrated GPU.
  • Asus GPU Tweak to monitor GPU temperatures and adjust fan speeds.
  • SpeedFan
    to monitor system temperatures and adjust system fan speeds.
  • Extech 380803 AC power analyzer / data logger for measuring AC system
    power.
  • PC-based spectrum analyzer:
    SpectraPlus with ACO Pacific mic and M-Audio digitalaudio interfaces.
  • Anechoic chamber
    with ambient level of 11 dBA or lower

System temperatures and noise levels are recorded with SpeedFan and GPU Tweak at idle and on load using Prime95 (large FFTs setting) and FurMark, an OpenGL
benchmarking and stability testing utility. This stress test puts more demand on the CPU and GPU than any real life application.

Baseline Noise

NOTE: Shortly after testing commenced, the bottom intake fan stopped
working. Testing continued with three fans. It’s likely that the fourth fan
wouldn’t have helped or may have even hindered the performance of the H440 due
to its position. A fan blowing over the power supply area isn’t really necessary.

Baseline Noise Level (idle, CPU fan off)
Fan Speed Setting
Rear Fan Speed
Front Fan Avg. Speed
SPL @1m
0%
N/A
14 dBA
40%
530 RPM
640 RPM
15 dBA
60%
720 RPM
860 RPM
18 dBA
80%
860 RPM
1040 RPM
22 dBA
100%
970 RPM
1180 RPM
25 dBA
Measuring mic positioned 1m at diagonal angle left/front
of case.
Ambient noise level: 10~11 dBA@1m.

The system running idle with the CPU fan off is very quiet, producing 14 dBA@1m with most of the noise generated by the Seagate SSHD. The case fans can bring that up to 25 dBA@1m at full speed or any noise level in between using motherboard fan control.

The included fans are NZXT’s FN
V2s
which are better than average relative to most case fans. The 140
mm model at the back is particularly exquisite with a clean smooth sound throughout
its range. The 120 mm variants at the front have a lower, less attractive pitch,
and some whine, but overall they’re still very good.

The included fans imbue the system with a pleasant sound straight out of the box, even at higher fan speeds. Our idle system with the fans at 80% speed has a pleasing even frequency distribution. There’s also a distinct lack of hard drive vibration despite our test drive being a 7200 RPM model.

TEST RESULTS

For our full system testing, the GPU and system fan speeds are varied in order to achieve a designated GPU temperature on load. In the future, this will give us a point of common comparison with other cases. The default setting has the GPU fan override kicking in at 79°C but this can be changed up to 91°C. For today’s test, 85°C and 80°C are what we’re shooting for.

System Measurements (85°C Target GPU Temp)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speed Setting
40%
40%
60%
80%
GPU Fan Speed*
Off
45% (1290 RPM)
43% (1190 RPM)
41% (1090 RPM)
CPU Temp
30°C
69°C
67°C
62°C
MB Temp
33°C
54°C
53°C
51°C
SSHD Temp
31°C
38°C
37°C
33°C
GPU Temp
34°C
85°C
85°C
85°C
System Power (AC)
50W
361W
359W
358W
SPL@1m
18~19 dBA
21~22 dBA
22 dBA
24 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain target GPU temperature on load.
CPU fan at 800 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

At idle, with the CPU fan running at 800 RPM and case fans set to 40%, our system is very cool with all internal temperatures under 35°C. The noise level in this state is a relatively quiet 18~19 dBA@1m, and keep in mind this can be lowered much further without much detriment by slowing down the Scythe Mugen Max‘s CPU fan (it bottoms out at 400 RPM). The GPU fans are a complete non-factor as the Asus Strix edition of the GTX 980 has the ability to turn off its fans completely.

Maintaining the same fan speeds when the system is placed under our load test results in a fairly hot running machine. The CPU heats up by 39°C, the motherboard temperature sees a 21°C increase, and the SSHD warms up by 7°C. A GPU fan speed of 1290 RPM is required to achieve a stable GPU temperature of 85°C, resulting in a 3 dB increase in noise. Speeding up the system fans to 60% helps a little bit, allowing the GPU fans to slow somewhat, while only affecting the noise level slightly. 80% speed makes a more meaningful impact but makes the rig a total of 2~3 dB louder.

System Measurements (80°C Target GPU Temp)
System State
Idle
CPU + GPU Load
System Fan Speed Setting
40%
40%
60%
80%
GPU Fan Speed*
Off
51% (1540 RPM)
48% (1410 RPM)
46% (1320 RPM)
CPU Temp
30°C
69°C
66°C
63°C
MB Temp
33°C
53°C
51°C
50°C
SSHD Temp
31°C
38°C
36°C
33°C
GPU Temp
34°C
80°C
80°C
80°C
System Power (AC)
50W
361W
358W
358W
SPL@1m
18~19 dBA
26 dBA
24 dBA
25 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain a GPU temperature of ~80°C on load.
CPU fan at 800 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

A target GPU temperature of 80°C makes a considerable acoustic difference.
The 40% system fan setting requires the GPU fans to run 250 RPM faster, causing
the overall noise level to rise to 26 dBA@1m. Moving to 60% speed is more advantageous
with this more demanding goal as the internal temperatures improve by 2~3°C
across the board, and the GPU fans can be slowed by 130 RPM, resulting in a
2 dB savings. 80% provides a similar performance boost but this time the added
noise from the case fans isn’t offset by lower GPU fan speed.

The Strix GTX 980 fans don’t have particularly poor acoustics, but they are clearly the worst sounding noise-generating components in this system. Unfortunately, they have a harsher sound that the other fans, and on load they are of course more greatly taxed. So on load, the system is not only louder, but the previously pleasant acoustics are tarnished somewhat, most notably by a modest tonal peak at between 600 and 700 Hz. It doesn’t sound bad per say, but if the case fans can be ramped up instead to pick up some of the slack, it’s highly advisable to do so.

Case Comparison: System Measurements
(CPU + GPU Load, 80°C Target GPU Temp)
System State
NZXT H440
SilverStone Fortress FT05
Avg. System Fan Speed
810 RPM (60%)
500 RPM
GPU Fan Speed*
1410 RPM (48%)
1000 RPM (40%)
CPU Temp
66°C
53°C
MB Temp
51°C
36°C
SSHD Temp
36°C
33°C
GPU Temp
80°C
80°C
System Power (AC)
358W
348W
SPL@1m
24 dBA
21~22 dBA
*set as low as possible to maintain a target GPU temperature.
CPU fan at 800 RPM.
Ambient temperature: 22°C.

As we’re using a new test system, there aren’t many cases to compare directly.
I did manage to quickly test the SilverStone Fortress FT05, which was recently
featured in our Quiet
SLI Gaming Build Guide
. Its big fans and rotated motherboard orientation
make it a superb performer, so the H440 is clearly outmatched.

With the FT05’s two 18 cm fans spinning at a mere 500 RPM, the 80°C target temperature was achieved with ease. The GPU fans didn’t even need to exceed their minimum running speed of 1000 RPM. It ran 2~3 dB quieter and both the CPU and motherboard were substantially cooler. The system was so cool, the system power draw was noticeably lower as electrical components operate more efficiently at lower temperatures.

AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording
system inside SPCR’s own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to
LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We’ve listened long and hard to ensure there is no
audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent
a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product
at various states. For the most realistic results,
set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then
don’t change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It’s easy to see why the NZXT H440 is such a popular case. It has a cool look,
neither characterless nor gaudy, two ends of the spectrum that are heavily represented
in the market today. The vast number of cable tie-down points at the back of
the motherboard tray are welcome and the elongated power supply compartment
is an elegant complement, hiding those messy power cables from view. The lighting
is also nicely subdued and the port LEDs at the back are a stroke of genius.
All of this is emblematic of a user-centered philosophy.

I have no serious objection to getting rid of all the 5.25-inch bays as optical
media is a dying format and the world would be better without it. That being
said, including one would increase the H440’s appeal; The Fortress FT05 has
a slim optical drive tray sitting on the side with slot barely visible at the
front, so the solid aesthetic is maintained. The 3.5-inch bays are surprisingly
excellent at limiting vibration but they are spaced rather generously apart.
I would have preferred to see them take advantage of this space better with
a couple more drive placements. (Editor’s Note: It’s possible
that more drive slots could weaken the structure and perhaps increase the impact
of HDD vibration.)

The H440’s most glaring problem is its lack of ventilation. The front bezel has a nicely sized intake vent along its right edge but none on the opposite side. The top cover is similarly affected only with the sides reversed. This design choice seems to be a stylistic one, a prime example of form unfortunately winning over function. Vents on both sides would improve performance considerably and it’s sad to see such a squandered opportunity.

As an enthusiast case, it has some nice convenience features, ample component
clearance, plenty of fans, yet it doesn’t have the airflow to go with it. It’s
much closer to our idea of a quiet case — though an ideal silent case must
have good airflow and good damping — but it doesn’t fully qualify
either. There’s noise damping foam on four sides, and the included fans are
top-notch acoustically, but thre is no fan speed controller. The four included
fans along with the CPU fan would take up all the fan headers on most modern
motherboards. If they addressed both of these issues, which wouldn’t be hard
to do, it would be an absolute killer case that I would highly recommend to
just about anyone looking for a tower. Frustratingly, the NZXT H440 is a couple
of tantalizing steps away from perfection.

Our thanks to NZXT
for the H440 case sample.

Editor’s Note

It’s with some misgivings that we chose not to award SPCR’s Recommendation
to the NZXT H440. It has a lot going for it, not least of all a very sturdy
build and unique, handsome styling. But the sub-par thermal performance
caused by the limited venting is not possible to ignore. Especially when
it could have been so easily bettered by not adhering slavishly to the
god of aesthetics and paying just a bit more attention to function. Would
it really be so bad for form to put top and front vents on both sides
of the case?

 

Addendum – 21 Mar 2015

Added images of the H440 Razer Edition

* * *

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NCASE M1: Crowdfunded Enthusiast Mini-ITX Case
Phanteks Enthoo Primo: Giant Tower Case

* * *

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this article in the SPCR Forums.

ADDENDUM — 21 Mar 2015: NZXT H440 – Designed by Razer

NZXT and Razer have teamed to create a variant of the H440 that is functionally identical but with a much flashier exterior. Instead of having trim colors, the case is entirely black with a tinted side window, and Razer rather NZXT branding, and more aggressive green lighting. This more flamboyant version of the H440 is selling for US$150, a markup of about 36%.


Instead of a blank front facia, the Razer’s snake logo makes an appearance, outlined by LEDs. Green is everywhere — with even the top USB 3.0 ports have changed color.


Three very bright CCFL tubes provide illumination from below. It’s a good way to light up the case indirectly without blinding users.


The NZXT logo is replaced on the power supply compartment. The side panel window is also tinted, making the external lighting even more pronounced.


The green port lights.

* * *

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this article in the SPCR Forums.

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